A scene from the Documentary Film: "Bin Yah" http://www.BinYahFilm.org
Bin Yah: [Gullah] n. sing. 1. "been here": natives, long-time residents
Come Yah: [Gullah] n. sing. 1: "come here": newcomers
Enslaved Africans in the Lowcountry along the coast of South Carolina and Georgia mostly originated from western Africa and shared similar language and culture. They brought with them unique customs, art forms, and created new ones, as they assimilated into a newer European-style culture on the plantations.
One of the most visible traditions is a unique method of "sewing" baskets made of sweetgrass (Muhlenbergia filipes or Muhlenbergia capillaries depending on who's doing the describing). Sweetgrass is a fine bladed, sweet vanilla fragranced perennial grass that grows behind coastal sand dunes in moist soils.
Rather than using the weaving technique of most basketmakers, Gullah basketmakers bundle dry sweetgrass and coil it into baskets held together by sewing the coils with thin strands of saw palmetto leaves. Dark reddish-brown bulrush and pine needles are often interwoven with the light colored sweetgrass to add color and patterns as well as the added strength of the bulrush.
Today, sweetgrass baskets have become a cherished and sought after Lowcountry art form with the majority of basketmakers centered in the beautiful Charleston and Mt. Pleasant areas of coastal South Carolina. Residents and visitors to the Lowcountry buy and display sweetgrass baskets in their homes with the same intent and enthusiasm that they would for any other fine piece of art.
More than display pieces, however, sweetgrass baskets are durable in use and will last indefinitely with minimal care. Baskets around our home find utility for beautifully housing fruits and breads, car keys and wallets, and outgoing mail. And then there are special pieces that sit proudly on the buffet with no other utility than to display their careful craftsmanship and the artist's skill of design. Large, complex pieces can take months to complete and are increasingly being purchased by collectors and museums around the world, including the Smithsonian Institution Museum of American History.
This tradition is threatened, however, by declines in habitat for sweetgrass due to unprecedented coastal development, and the mis-management of growth. These topics are in our film, "Bin Yah", and are spoken about for the first time very freely on film, by the artists and residents themselves.
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Produced by Nancy Cregg & Cara White
Directed & Edited by Justin Nathanson
Bin Yah: There's No Place Like Home is a documentary film produced by The ChasDOC Film Society that explores the potential loss of important historic African American communities in Mt. Pleasant, S.C due to growth and development. Through the testimonies of the residents themselves, the film explores the culture, the history, the importance of land and the concept of home, giving a voice to those who seldom have had a chance to be heard.
A proposed highway extension threatens to bisect these close-knit neighborhoods of cousins and kinfolk, established by freed slaves and home to generations of their families for hundreds of years.
Many residents are artisans and craftspeople, practicing traditional skills including sweetgrass basketmaking, brought over from West Africa and handed down from mothers and fathers to sons and daughters. Today, Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina is the primary place in the U.S. where this grass is harvested and "sewn" into this particular type of basket.
Bin Yah will attempt to preserve -- at least on film -- the memories of the special places that may be lost forever as the struggle between the real "bin yahs" and the "come yahs" escalates